The Great A.I. Lie

Businesses are slapping the buzzword “AI” on everything nowadays. Most are lying.

A Rude Beginning

While walking through a recent technology trade show, I spotted a booth showcasing its latest “A.I. driven” software. I asked the sales rep what that meant, and it quickly became clear he couldn’t explain it. Finally, he lowered his voice and explained “we just use the term to make it sound cooler.”

Unfortunately, companies and products like this are trending nowadays. Remember when the organic food craze started to kick off? Remember how businesses were crawling over each other to slap the terms “green” and “organic” on anything they could? Has artificial intelligence become the new “farm raised”?

A.I. is definitely redefining some industries, but it’s still very much in its infancy. True A.I. is a far ways away, and consumers need to start asking the right questions before squandering their hard earned money.

A.I. washing is the act of falsely labeling a technology as “artificial intelligence” to purposefully deceive consumers.

It is the defining issue of our time.

Three Signs that Cool “A.I.” is Probably a Lie

Notable Lack of Case Studies
A.I. is a new and exciting field. If you’re making progress, you’re publishing papers and studies. A.I. development is not kept “under wraps”. Look for information about data, training models, and results. Look for anything that details more than “increased efficiency” and “cost savings”. And if you can’t find it? It’s probably not A.I.

Distinct Lack of A.I. Talent
A.I. is a cutting-edge field. It demands the best of the best. It demands a new breed of technologists. Developing complex AI-powered solutions requires engineers specializing in machine learning, big data scientists, and more. It takes more than a couple “coders” and some coffee. If you want to vet a company’s A.I. claim, ask to speak with the brains behind the scene.

Ambiguity and Obfuscation
A.I. providers should be able to explain (at least at a high level), the models, algorithms, and methods used in their software. I would start with some lowball questions: “What form of A.I. are you using?” or “What is it doing with that data?”. If the answer is unclear or overly anecdotal, chances are there isn’t a real A.I. algorithm running.

What Do You Do About Fake A.I.?

It’s simple: get educated. True artificial intelligence can be identified by these three core features:

  • It operates independently. It doesn’t need a human to feed it suggestions or instructions.
  • It learns. Results get better over time. If results increase as a steady rate, you’re probably looking at a *shudder* pseudo A.I.
  • It can be explained. A.I. isn’t magic. It uses deceptively simple algorithms. The hard part (and the proprietary part) is the data you feed the artificial intelligence.

Based on those features, we can safely assume that very little “true A.I.” exists in the modern business world. Humans still play a key role in teaching machines how to act, think, and perform.

Let’s be honest. Before you spend a single dollar on an A.I. powered software, apply just a dash of human cynicism. Has this company raised millions in investment dollars? Does this company look like it’s got a staff of big data geniuses? Or does this company look like it’s trying to make a quick buck?

Stay educated, and protect your wallet.

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